“Save the Last Dance for Me” is the title of a popular song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, first recorded in 1960 by Ben E. King and The Drifters.
The Drifters’ version of the song spent three non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the U.S. pop chart, in addition to logging one week atop the U.S. R&B chart. In the UK, the Drifters’ recording reached #2 in December 1960. This single was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two noted American music producers who at the time had an apprentice relationship with a then-unknown Phil Spector. Although he was working with Leiber and Stoller at the time, it is unknown whether Spector assisted with the production of this record; however, many Spector fans have noticed similarities between this record and other music he would eventually produce on his own.
Damita Jo had a hit with one of the answer songs of this era called “I’ll Save The Last Dance For You”. In the song, the narrator tells his lover she is free to mingle and socialize throughout the evening, but to make sure to save him the dance at the end of the night.
During an interview on Elvis Costello’s show Spectacle, Lou Reed, who worked with Pomus, said the song was written on the day of Pomus’ wedding while the wheelchair-bound groom watched his bride dancing with their guests. Pomus had polio and at times used crutches to get around. His wife, Willi Burke, however, was a Broadway actress and dancer. The song gives his perspective of telling his wife to have fun dancing, but reminds her who will be taking her home and “in whose arms you’re gonna be.” The personnel for the Drifters’ recording were: Bucky Pizzarelli, Allen Hanlon (guitar), Lloyd Trotman (bass), Gary Chester (drums).